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Portrait | 17 mars
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Le fondu du décor
Liu Bolin se cache dans la photo. Saurez-vous le retrouver ? Indice : il est chinois.

 © Courtesy of the artist
 © Courtesy of the artist
Albert Elbaz, Lanvin © Courtesy of the artist for Harper’s Bazaar
Liu Bolin, autrement dit « l'homme invisible » est un artiste plasticien chinois, né en 1973. Il s'intéresse d'abord à la sculpture, mais un événement majeur le pousse vers la photographie : en 2005, le gouvernement chinois décide de raser le quartier d’artistes dans lequel Liu Bolin s’est installé. Liu Bolin prendra son premier cliché devant les ruines de son atelier l’année suivante. Dès lors, il fera de la photo le médium privilégié de sa contestation de la société chinoise.
Liu Bolin élève la dis­si­mu­la­tion au rang de per­for­mance artistique. Sur ses photos, il se met lui-même en scène, en se fondant au maxi­mum dans le décor qui l'entoure. Peint de la tête aux pieds aux cou­leurs de son environnement, il est presque indécelable sur les clichés.
Son art est contes­ta­taire : la pre­mière photo de sa série la plus célèbre, Hiding in the City, a été prise devant les décombres de son ate­lier. La majo­rité de ses œuvres touchent aux rap­ports entre l'indi­vidu et la société. Dans la série Hiding in the City, l'une des pho­tos le repré­sente presque effacé devant un kiosque à jour­naux chargé de maga­zines à la mode, sym­bole de l'intrusion de la publicité et du mar­ke­ting dans notre environnement.
Liu Bolin a acquis en quelques années une recon­nais­sance inter­na­tio­nale, et ses oeuvres ont été expo­sées en Chine, en Italie, aux Etats-Unis, et en France, à la gale­rie Paris-Beijing.
À l'occasion du salon Art Paris, qui met la Chine à l'honneur la semaine prochaine, Liu Bolin présente son oeuvre Iron fist, haute de 3,60 mètres et pesant 7 tonnes, devant l'entrée de la nef du Grand Palais. L'œuvre représente son poing gauche gravé du slogan de propagande actuel de la ville de Pékin, le Beijing Spirit : «Patriotisme, innovation, intégration et vertu». L'édition 2014 de la foire, qui se tiendra jusqu'au 30 mars, s'inscrit dans la commémoration des 50 ans des relations diplomatiques entre Paris et Pékin et met à la Chine à l’honneur.
Liu Bolin travaille avec une équipe d'assistants pour réaliser ses illusions visuelles : dans une conférence à TED en 2013, il a expliqué que ses photographies étaient un moyen d'expression pour ceux qui étaient devenus invisibles, que ce soit par la volonté du gouvernement chinois, par la culture de consommation ou par les circonstances de l'histoire.

When Camouflage Becomes a Strategy by Liu Bolin, November 2008

Are human beings animals? All chameleon species are able to change their skin color. Rattlesnake can bury most of the body in sand soil. Thus they can not only protect themselves but also have better access to food. There are many other animals, such as geckos, beetles and so on, which have also learnt to so deal with the environment and their enemies in the long fight of life and death. In order to survive, hiding is often key.
Human beings are not animals. Because they do not know how to protect themselves.
The last three thousand years of human civilization seem to illustrate that human beings develop in the destruction of their environment and in the exploitation of others. The cost of this brilliant human civilization is that humans forget they are still animals, they forget their own instincts.
Human beings seem to have forgotten that they still need to think how to survive. While mankind is enjoying its development, its own greed is digging its grave. In human society, it is not enough to hide in order to make oneself safe. The human race is under threat. Rather than saying that the human species plays a key role, it would be better to say that we are just killing ourselves with our own hands.
What it means to be human today is complicated by economic development. What disappears with death is the human body, but what is slowly weakened by rushed economic development is the human spirit. Because thinking is the meaning of life, the latter death is more terrible than the former. War in the first half of the last century and shifts in the global economy in the second half have weakened our capacity to create meaning. Whether directly or indirectly, wittingly or reluctantly, human beings, who thought themselves masters of the Earth, are now being controlled by the forces of nature.
Human behaviour does illustrate this.
One hundred years ago, each Chinese man had a long plait on his back. At that time, this was normal. If a man had no plait or cut it short, it was a symbol of his innovative ideas. But now, the plait behind the back, which had in the meantime become a trademark of contemporary artist, is merely the patent of hairdressers, and maybe be disparaged by the majority of people with short hair. Long hair and plait themselves are meaningless. Their meaning depends on the outside environment. Human beings are born in society, and our thinking is determined by tradition. Human beings are so weak that their thinking is copied unconsciously by the next generation.
Mental enthrallment is more terrible than physical disappearance.
Sometimes I feel fortunate that I was not born in the 1950s. People of that generation have experienced everything, many experiences are common to the whole generation: first the mass cult of Chairman Mao, then the Cultural Revolution, an unconventional education or the lack of college education, the ‘iron rice bowl’ and being laid-off, public housing and the private ownership of houses, children going to school at their own expense and so on. The strength of culture and tradition can influence an entire generation’s thinking.
Today the world views of different people’s are also different. Each person chooses his/her own way in the process of contacting outside world. I choose to merge myself into the environment. Rather than saying that I disappear in the environment, it would be better to say that the environment has eaten me up and I cannot choose to be active or passive.
In a context that empasizes cultural heritage, concealment is actually no place to hide.
Crédits photo : Courtesy of the artist for Harper’s Bazaar, Courtesy of the artist, Courtesy of Société Générale, 2011
Article paru dans le numéro #15 ILLUSION
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